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Observations from Wake Forest's 45-42 loss to N.C. State

Observations from Wake Forest's 45-42 loss to N.C. State

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N.C. State quarterback Bailey Hockman (16) runs in for a 7-yard touchdown on Saturday night in Raleigh.

RALEIGH – Wake Forest’s offense offered plenty to like, but the defense will need work.

The Deacons lost 45-42 to N.C. State on Saturday night before about 350 spectators, mostly parents of players from both teams, at Carter-Finley Stadium. 

The two teams combined for nearly 850 yards as the Wolfpack opened its season with a much-improved offense under new coordinator Tim Beck.

For Coach Dave Clawson, who is in his eighth season at Wake Forest, his Deacons are 0-2 for the first time in his career. It gets no easier on Saturday when No. 7 Notre Dame goes to Winston-Salem to play another ACC game.

Three observations from the shootout, which looked more like 7-on-7 football than anything else:

1. A track meet or football game?

It’s good to know that Wake Forest’s offense is on the right track, especially with a better running game. Kenneth Walker, a sophomore, ran for a career-high 133 yards and scored three touchdowns. It was a striking difference from last week's loss to Clemson in using Walker and Christian Beal-Smith to keep the Wolfpack’s defense guessing. The delayed draws near the line of scrimmage were effective, and Walker's power was impressive.

2. Plenty of weapons for Sam Hartman

When Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman was asked about hitting eight different receivers who had catches, he said it’s a by product of believing in each other. One thing that Hartman said needs to improve is his touch on the long balls, which has been slightly off through two games.

The two receivers who really stood out were Jaquaril Roberson (seven catches, 75 yards) and Donald Stewart (five catches, 41 yards). But Wake Forest's two-minute drill went horribly wrong on its final series, when Wake Forest trailed by three but couldn't get past midfield.

“I have to make those throws,” Hartman said.

What would get the offense moving more is getting the ball into Taylor Morin's hands. He's also the punt returner, and it's a good bet with his speed he'll eventually return a punt for a touchdown.

3. Defense needs work

What had Clawson shaking his head the most was how effectively the Wolfpack ran the ball. The defense was supposed to be a strength, but the Wolfpack pushed toward 300 yards rushing.

“You can’t give up 270 yards on the ground,” Clawson said. “They outplayed us and deserved to win the game.”

Cornerback Ja'Sir Taylor said communication errors need to be corrected.

“A couple of plays were physical that we didn’t make as well,” Taylor said. “We have to come back and have more of a sense of urgency and get off the mat and have a great performance against Notre Dame.”

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@johndellWSJ

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